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Setting the table: Jaguars-Broncos

Posted Oct 8, 2013

Storylines and stuff to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare to play the Denver Broncos in Denver, Colo., Sunday.

JACKSONVILLE – Here’s this week’s Setting the Table: Storylines and stuff to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) prepare to play the Denver Broncos (5-0) in Denver, Colo., Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

 

The buzz

The circumstances hardly could be tougher.

The Jaguars haven’t won a game this season, and their five losses all have come by double digits. It’s a young team trying to find its way, and this week the opponent is . . .

The Denver Broncos.

As in, the Denver Broncos with quarterback Peyton Manning, who in five games through his second season with the Broncos appears on pace to be named NFL Most Valuable Player for a fifth season.

The Broncos are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL this season, have scored more than 50 points in each of the last two games and are overwhelming favorites Sunday.

The Jaguars enter the game very much looking for positives, having lost rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel for the season this past week when the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft sustained a fractured high ankle. He started his first career game at left tackle Sunday after starting the first four games at right tackle.

While the Jaguars have struggled this season, they turned in perhaps their best game of the season Sunday, taking a 10-7 first quarter lead and trailing 27-20 in the fourth quarter of a 34-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo.

Chad Henne likely will start at quarterback for the third time this season for the Jaguars. He started Weeks Two and Three when Blaine Gabbert was out with a lacerated hand.

Gabbert, the starter in Weeks One, Four and Five, is likely out with a hamstring injury sustained against the Rams. He has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions this season.

 

Opponent’s storyline

The Broncos have been the league’s dominant team through five weeks, moving to 5-0 on Sunday with a dramatic 51-48 victory over Dallas. Manning has thrown 20 touchdowns with one interception, an NFL record for touchdown passes through five games. The Broncos’ 230 points through five games also is a league record and Denver has won 16 consecutive regular-season games.

 

The broadcast

The game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo., at 4:05 p.m. Sunday will be broadcast regionally on CBS 47. Ian Eagle will be the play-by-play announcer, with Dan Fouts and Shannon Sharpe providing analysis.

 

Early matchup to watch

The Jaguars’ secondary versus Peyton Manning. This could be Manning versus Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich or Manning against anyone on the Jaguars’ defense. Manning has been the NFL MVP four times, and has been as good as any quarterback in the NFL over the last decade and a half. This season he is as good as or better than he ever has been, which means he’s playing the position at the highest possible level. That’s tough enough, but the Jaguars are a young defense with two rookie safeties starting and two veterans at cornerback with relatively little experience. The Jaguars also have struggled to create pass rush this season, with defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks their most consistent pass rusher on the front. Manning has consistently exploited one-on-one matchups this season with a deep receiving corps that includes Wes Welker in the slot and the physical presence of Demaryius Thomas on the outside. The Jaguars’ young secondary will get the test of their careers.

 

Player to watch

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars’ running back started slow this season, as much because of an offensive line that was struggling to run block as the aftereffects of a foot injury and offseason rehabilitation process. With veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe traded to Baltimore last week and with rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel now out for the season with a foot injury, the Jaguars’ offensive line had its best run-blocking game of the season, and Jones-Drew also had his best game of the season, running with more power and speed around the edge than he has shown all season. The Jaguars’ offense likely will try to keep Manning off the field as much as possible, and if Jones-Drew and the running game can be effective early, that will only help.

 

What to watch

*With Monroe gone to the Ravens and Joeckel now out for the season, the Jaguars now are starting Cameron Bradfield at left tackle and Austin Pasztor at right tackle. Each played well Sunday, with Pasztor grading positively according to Pro Football Focus and neither player allowing a sack.

*Clay Harbor will likely continue to start at tight end, with Marcedes Lewis expected to be out for the fifth time in six games with a calf injury and Allen Reisner out at least six weeks with a knee injury. Harbor has graded consistently well this season, but lost a costly fumble Sunday.

*Wide receiver Stephen Burton, safety Dwight Lowery and defensive end Jeremy Mincey will be retested this week after missing Sunday’s game with concussions.

*Wide receiver Mike Brown (back) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) could return to the practice field this week, but Bradley said their status for Sunday remains uncertain.

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